Utah deals with small ball to pick up win

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

Utah has a 7-foot-2 giant and UNLV countered with a guard quartet that nearly handed Utah its first loss in eight games.

Although the Utes aren’t accustomed to dealing with small, quick teams, the Mountain West Conference-leading Utes handled the “small ball” tempo to earn the 70-60 win.

“That team is hard for us to play against,” head coach Jim Boylen said. “They go small, they go quick. They’re into us. I thought we stayed the course pretty good and we made enough big plays to win.”

After the Utes were unsuccessful against the Rebels’ small lineup in Las Vegas Jan. 24, the team was more equipped for the mismatches and quickness they would face this time around.

“We prepared for it, my staff did a great job,” Boylen said. “We were more alert to what they were going to do. In our last game, we let them do what they wanted to do to easily and I thought tonight they had to work for it.”

Although Utah was prepared for the smaller lineup UNLV would present, the Utes still struggled against the four-guard set8212;especially on defense.

One of Utah’s biggest struggles was bringing center Luke Nevill to the perimeter to guard against one of the Rebels’ small forwards, such as Rene Rougue and Riverton High School product Joe Darger.

“It’s tough to play against UNLV because they do play small on me,” Nevill said. “They force me to play in perimeter situations and pick-and-roll situations where they can swing it for 3s, but we had really good rotation today. There were a couple times where we had mental lapses, but overall, we rotated to the shooters and my team really helped me out.”

After playing sturdy defense against the small lineup in the first half and jumping out to a 14-point lead, Utah had a lapse late in the second half and allowed a 9-0 run by the Rebels with about two minutes left that cut the Utes’ lead to two.

Despite UNLV’s quickness and mismatches that were a main staple in Utah’s 20 turnovers, the Utes’ conditioning took over and wore down the Rebels’ running game. That gave the Utes the push they needed to close out the win.

“We had a couple of stretches where we turned the ball over and got soft with them,” Boylen said. “I though we wore them down a little. I thought fatigue was a factor in the second half.”

The win prevented UNLV from sweeping the Beehive State for the first time in team history.

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Thien Sok

Utah?s Luke Nevill played well against UNLV?s small ball style.